T H E B U S I N E S S O F VAC AT I O N O U T LO O K F O R 2 0 1 8
T H E B U S I N E S S O F VA C AT I O N
JAMAICA ON THE MOVE This Caribbean island is surging ahead
OUTLOOK FOR 2018
LOUD AND CLEAR Turning up the volume on voice search and technology
SOCIAL CLIMBERS How to give your social media platforms a boost
ON POINT Rick Sargent, CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp., takes aim at the future
MATERIALS TK 10/18
FOR YOU & YOUR OWNERS
MATERIALS TK 10/18
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RCI does not make any representations regarding the availability of or endorse any of the products or services provided by third parties. RCI and related marks are registered trademarks and/or service marks in the United States and internationally. All rights reserved. 9998 North Michigan Road, Carmel, IN 46032 © 2017 RCI, LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
IN BR IEF
04 By the Numbers Discover how many Americans forgo paid time off
06 Industry News Briefs Reports from the field
08 Travel Trends International inbound travel; the rise of road trips
26 Technology & Marketing What voice-enabled technology means for resorts
32 Industry Solutions
34 The Partnership Advantage
Rick Sargent, president and CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp.
42 What Owners Want The Owners Club
JAMAICA ON THE MOVE This Caribbean island is surging ahead
LOUD AND CLEAR Turning up the volume on voice search and technology
SOCIAL CLIMBERS How to give your social media platforms a boost
ON POINT Rick Sargent, CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp., takes aim at the future
50 Recent RCI® Affiliated Resorts 51 Events Calendar 52 A Final Thought Off-duty with RCI’s Robert Stolt
IN DEV ELOPMENT
Enjoy RCI Ventures® magazine on your iPad®* when you download the RCI Ventures® magazine app for iPad® free at the iTunes® App Store.
ESJ Collection OUTLOOK FOR 2018
16 On Point
T H E B U S I N E S S O F VA C AT I O N
How resorts are using social media as a direct marketing platform
38 True Blue
T H E B U S I N E S S O F VAC AT I O N O U T LO O K F O R 2 0 1 8
10 Climbing the Social Ladder
ON THIS PAGE Negril’s stunning Seven Mile Beach, in Jamaica.
TravelVue; Club 365SM
Palmera Vacation Club IN DEPTH
ON THE COVER Dunn’s River Falls, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
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With hotels opening and tourism surging, Jamaica is on the rise
Senior Vice President: Philip S. Brojan. Publisher: Brian Bruno. Content Director: Giorgio Bentrovato. Associate Publisher: Emily Neiman. Contributing Editor: Helen Foster. Advisory Board Chair: Fiona Downing. Advisory Board: Jeff Parker, Kelly Deardorff, Amy Lipka, Eugenio Macouzet, Bob McGrath, Todd Menendez, Robert Stolt, Debbie Wunder. VP Associate Publisher, Multimedia: Madelyn A. Roberts, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-437-0630
Editor in Chief: Sunshine Flint. Creative Director: Derek Eng. Creative Operations Manager: Patrick Sheehan. Copy Chief: Casey Edwards. Associate Editor: Jessen O’Brien. Assistant Editor: Hannah Doyle. Photography Director: Danielle Lamp. Art Director: Jenna Grady. Designer: Katie Belloff. Senior Producer: Carrie Blocher. Group Account Director: Emily Yarbrough. Account Supervisor: Peter Macari. Chief Executive Officer: Simon Kelly.
No part of this magazine may be reproduced without written permission from RCI. RCI Ventures® magazine publishes opinions of many knowledgeable individuals. These opinions are not a substitute for legal, accounting or other professional advice. The views and conclusions expressed in RCI Ventures® magazine are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of RCI nor of its parent or affiliates. The information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources the proprietors believe to be correct. However, no legal liability can be accepted for any errors. RCI Ventures is a registered trademark of RCI, LLC. For all subscription queries, please contact email@example.com. 9998 North Michigan Road, Carmel, IN 46032 © 2018 RCI, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
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PHOTOS, COVER: ISTOCKPHOTO; THIS PAGE: ALAMY
20 Going With the Flow
M E S S AG E F R O M R C I
Bright Future The timeshare industry is moving forward with innovative products, technology and amenities while still keeping its core mission at the forefront.
it has become clear that the way people consume and go on vacations, the way they plan them and how they like to own things, is changing. The timeshare industry is at an interesting point in our sharing economy, and addressing the current trends will be key for the future of our industry. But what is also becoming clear is that younger consumers take on the behaviors of older ones as they age, and we have the products that can adapt to what they want, whether it’s short-term use or long-term ownership. Looking ahead, I am excited about how agile many developers and resorts have become in identifying different kinds of products, next-level amenities and new levels of flexibility that appeal to their buyers and that target millennial, Gen-X and boomer consumers. The growth of vacation clubs is a success story that continues to gain strength, as is the new technology that is upping the game on the consumer-experience side. One thing that has not changed for the better is that people do not use all of their time off. Our industry is focused on that “vacation starvation” and getting across how timeshare is an investment in ensuring that people actually plan and take their vacations. In this issue of RCI Ventures® magazine, we take a look at how much vacation time workers leave on the table and the reasons behind their decisions. Across the board, the best way to ensure people take all of their vacation is to make sure they plan far in advance. We are a coalition partner of Project: Time Off, whose National Plan for Vacation Day initiative, on January 30, encourages people to plan their vacations for the coming year on that day. We firmly believe that helping people reconnect with their families and rejuvenate as individuals enables them to live better lives, and a day to plan your vacation is a perfect alignment of who and what the timeshare industry is all about.
PHOTO: IAN SPANIER
OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS,
Also in this issue we examine the game-changing nature of voice search and voice technology. It is predicted that by 2020 half of all searches will be by voice; and with new devices such as Amazon’s Echo Show, which has a seven-inch screen and responds to voice commands, potential customers will eventually be able to go with ease from research to booking. Before long, consumers will be able to ask their voice assistant to cast their vacation research up on a screen. First there will be a new version of SEO that makes resorts’ websites available to the voice-search assistants, but soon resorts will have to create the right experiences to utilize these tools and be able to interact with consumers using them. We also spoke to RCI’s director of social media, who revealed helpful social media practices for resorts and how to manage each platform to its fullest potential so that resorts can present their brand and social media presence in the most optimal way. Finally, there were a number of devastating natural disasters that severely impacted many resort properties last year. While many places are still recovering, it’s remarkable how the timeshare industry came together to help the affected properties and send aid to struggling communities. All of us have been working together to help restore these regions, as well as find ways to keep owners satisfied and give them vacation alternatives while they are waiting for their resorts to come back online.
Gordon Gurnik President, RCI
RCI VENTURES 3
BY T H E N U M B E R S
From Work Martyr to Play Harder If Americans used all of their paid time off, it would mean 662 million more days on vacation. Americans increasingly forgo paid time off, leaving billions in benefits on the table from unused vacation in 2016. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. workers surveyed for Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2017 said they were glad to be seen as “work martyrs,” or “employees who find it difficult or do not take time off because they feel no one else can do their job.” Being indispensable doesn’t aid productivity, however. Project: Time Off found that self-identified work martyrs were less likely to report receiving a raise or bonus in the past three years and were no more likely to have been promoted in the past year than any other worker. The solution? Advance planners use more time and take longer vacations. “The more notice you have, the more time you have to work toward that goal and to coordinate with your colleagues and your boss to make sure everything is covered,” says Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy for Project: Time Off. The study also spotted trends among key groups that can help you target sales and marketing messages to empower them to book time off. —PATRICK SHEEHAN
The amount in benefits American workers forfeited in unused vacation time in 2016
The percentage of American workers who said they were happy to have their boss see them as a “work martyr”
The Gender Gap The problem: Women cite stress at work as the main reason they don’t take vacation. The pitch: Booking vacation in advance eases the stress of last-minute planning and allows women time to prepare projects and arrange coverage. It’s self-care at work.
M EN WOM EN 58% 49%
Say vacation is “extremely” important
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Use all of their vacation time
74% of women said that stress at work holds them back from taking time off, compared with
67% of men.
If you’ve got a vacation that you’ve essentially already paid for, probably far in advance, then it makes it that much easier to get over the hump and take the time. —K ATIE DENIS,
chief of research and strategy, Project: Time Off
The Generation Gap The problem: Millennials and Generation X are more likely than boomers to be work martyrs. The pitch: Work martyrdom is bad for your career; martyrs are less likely to get ahead and are more prone to burnout. Vacation helps you be productive and successful.
44% 37% 33%
Millennials (born 1981–1997)
Generation X (born 1965–1980)
Boomers (born 1946–1964)
of millennials don’t take time off because they worry that they would lose consideration for a raise or promotion, compared with just
12% of boomers with the same fear.
The Leadership Gap The problem: Managers feel they’re too essential to take time off. The pitch: Time off allows managers to come up with creative ideas they may not have thought of in the day-to-day. “Some of the greatest ideas came out of vacation thinking,” Denis says.
N ON MA N AG E R S SENI O R L E A DE R S
46% of senior leaders say they feel that no one else can do the job while they are away.
Say their company culture encourages vacation
Use all of their vacation time
National Plan for Vacation Day: The Power of Planning There’s a simple, powerful solution to the problem of unused time off: Plan in advance. Fifty-two percent of workers who say they set aside time each year to plan their vacation actually use all of their time, while only 40 percent of those who don’t plan in advance use all their PTO. To encourage workers to plan, Project: Time Off created National Plan for Vacation Day (projecttimeoff.com/ planforvacation). This year, Project: Time Off is setting aside January 30, 2018, as a day for all Americans to begin the planning process. Vacation ownership—which helps ensure that a set number of days are reserved for vacation each year—is a great solution for those who regularly leave days on the table. “What’s great about timeshare is it really forces you to think about, ‘How many vacation days do I have? How am I using them? And what do I have planned for this year?’ ” says Denis. In conjunction with National Plan for Vacation Day, Project: Time Off is launching a planning tool on its website. Users can put in the number of days they have and plan out time off in a calendar that can be exported to a personal calendar or shared.
RCI VENTURES 5
IN BR IEF
Want to be seen as work martyrs by the boss:
IN DUSTRY N EWS B RIE FS
The Hotel Xcaret México, on the Riviera Maya. Below: The entrance to Zion National Park; check-in counters in the international terminal of Calgary International Airport.
Getting through airport security has gone largely unchanged since shortly after 9/11, but now airports and travel companies are beginning to innovate. Virgin Australia and Amadeus, a travel-technology company, tested a pop-up flightcheck-in service on Sydney cruise ships in September of last year. Using Amadeus’s cloud technology, the service can be set up anywhere—including cruise terminals, hotels, train stations and conferences. An attendant would be on-site to help check in travelers and transport their bags to the airport. Virgin plans to launch the service across Australia and New Zealand this year. In the U.S., the Pittsburgh airport launched MyPITPass in 2017; it allows nontravelers beyond the security checkpoint to see off loved ones near the gates. Participants face the same level of security screenings as travelers.
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Experiencias Xcaret opens its first resort The new Hotel Xcaret México is the latest development to come out of Experiencias Xcaret—a group that runs sustainable parks and tours in the Mexican Caribbean that highlight the region’s natural and cultural offerings—and is the company’s first foray into hospitality. The all-inclusive resort, which debuted last December near Playa del Carmen, offers diverse onsite amenities, including 10 restaurants, a spa and five types of accommodation, such as family, adults-only and wellness zones. Guests also have access to Xcaret’s full portfolio of amusement parks and tours of the area’s Mayan culture, underground rivers, jungles and ruins. Nine years of geological, environmental and water-flow planning and studies have directed the resort’s design as well as programs to ensure an efficient use of water and electricity and reduce its carbon footprint.
Tourism boards partner up For the first time, the tourism boards of major international and domestic cities are teaming up. Last August, NYC & Company and Cape Town Tourism entered into a two-year agreement to foster longer stays and higher spending. NYC & Company is also collaborating locally with Discover Long Island on NYC+, an international marketing campaign to promote side trips to Long Island, “New York City’s Beachfront Backyard.” The campaign targets Canada and Australia, two proven source markets for New York. Additionally, the National Park Service is working with local tourism boards and direct marketing organizations. Utah’s Zion National Park, in Springdale, partnered with the Utah Office of Tourism to learn how the increase in visitors to Zion impacted the local economy.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF XCARET; SHUTTERSTOCK; ISTOCKPHOTO
Rethinking airport security
A COMMITMENT TO
Excelling in the luxury vacation exchange segment requires dedication and focus on the unique needs of its audience. The Registry Collection® program was founded with the promise of providing that experience to your owners over and over again. With more than 15 years of experience, The Registry Collection program continues as the leader in luxury vacation exchange.
The Registry Collection® program features more than 200 properties accessible for exchange or currently under development - no other global exchange company offers more luxury real estate destinations around the world.* And no one is more committed to dedicating resources specifically to that space, with the aim of fulfilling and surpassing that promise for you and your owners.
Learn more about The Registry Collection exchange and support services at TRCAffiliates.com/AboutTRC or call 866.937.5979 .
*These vacations are limited. Destinations and travel times are subject to availability and confirmed on a first come, first served basis. The Registry Collection and related marks are registered trademarks and/or service marks in the United States and internationally. All rights reserved. © 2018 RCI, LLC. All rights reserved.
RCI VENTURES 7
T R AV E L T R E N D S
Fewer visitors to the U.S., but strong markets show promise. International tourism to the U.S. shrank for most of 2017 compared with the previous year, according to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA). And the USTA’s Leading Travel Index reported in September that inbound international travel was expected to continue declining through early 2018 (the most recent data as of press time). However, keeping track of international-travel patterns, as well as key inbound markets, can point resorts to opportunities for ownership and exchange. Dave Huether, senior vice president for research at USTA, says the changing value of the U.S. dollar might provide incentive for foreign inbound travelers. From January through August 2017, the U.S. dollar lost 9 to 13 percent of its value against the euro, Mexican peso and Australian dollar and declined more moderately against the British pound, Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, Brazilian real and Canadian dollar, Reuters
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reported in August 2017. Since international travelers tend to book months in advance, the dollar’s loss may be a gain for inbound tourism. But keep in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate daily. Because it’s difficult to predict the year ahead, Huether advises focusing on key source markets. “Looking at our forecast, I think there will be an improvement with economic growth from our major source markets,” Huether says. Those markets include China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the U.K. and Western Europe. To attract these countries’ travelers, resorts can focus on travel windows around major location-specific holidays. For example, Golden Week is a busy travel period in Japan—the Japan Travel Bureau estimated that 564,000 Japanese went abroad for the holiday in 2016. Having online materials in languages other than English can also attract international travelers, and providing translations at the resort can help ensure a positive stay. Chinese travelers may be particularly appealing to resorts because of their number and spending habits. In April 2017, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that 135 million Chinese traveled outside of China in 2016, establishing the country as the world’s largest source market for inbound travel for the fifth consecutive year. Huether recommends that resorts also reach out to growing source markets, such as Brazil. According to the USTA, the U.S. is the number one international destination for Brazilians, drawing 22 percent of the country’s outbound travel. Many Brazilians do their shopping Stateside. “In recent years, it cost less to purchase items in the U.S. than it did in Brazil, between tariffs and taxes,” Huether says. Since so many factors are at play—the economy in the U.S. and political developments are among the components that can affect inbound travel to the U.S.—this dual approach of catering to growing markets as well as travel powerhouses may increase resorts’ chances for success. —HANNAH DOYLE
U.S. Traveler Currency Watch List:
The British pound: After the Brexit vote, in 2016, the GBP fell to a 31-year low. It has made gains since but continues to fluctuate as Britain begins separating from the European Union.
The Barbadian dollar, Aruban florin, Bermudian dollar, Bahamian dollar and several other Caribbean currencies are pegged to the U.S. dollar, and businesses in these countries often accept U.S. currency, so even as markets change, travelers have a sense of what to expect when they visit these Caribbean nations.
The Brazilian real: Brazil rebounded from the country’s longest recession with one percent growth during the first three months of 2017, but those currency gains were erased after a political scandal in May. The real has been volatile since.
PHOTOS: ALAMY; ISTOCKPHOTO(4)
IN BR IEF
2018 Outlook: Top International Source Markets
O N O U R R A DA R
IN BR IEF
On the Road Again More Americans are exploring the wonders in their backyard. In a country this varied and beautiful, the continued popularity of road trips is not a surprise. A growing number of Americans are opting to vacation in the U.S. instead of going abroad. Domestic travel rose 7 percentage points from 2016 to account for 85 percent of American vacations in 2017, and road trips were the fastest growing sector, jumping from 22 percent of all American vacations in 2016 to 37 percent in 2017, according to MMGY Global’s 2017–2018 Portrait of American Travelers®. (A road trip is defined here as a prolonged journey by car with several stops.) Some travelers are staying within the country out of concerns about safety abroad. “We’re seeing a decrease in international travel among those who haven’t done it before,” says Steve Cohen, vice president of research and insights for MMGY Global. “As a result, Americans are more interested in domestic travel, which road trips have always been a part of.” But road trips appeal across all generations, and for different reasons.
The study found that three generational segments—Generation X (ages 39–52), baby boomers (53–71) and matures (72 and over)—were motivated mainly by the ability to control their itinerary and make stops when and where they wanted. Meanwhile, millennials (19–38) cited lower vacation costs and liked that road trips can be taken at the last minute. Road-trippers line up well with two of vacation ownership’s key demographics: boomers and families. Road trips made up 42 percent of boomers’ total vacations, the largest percentage of any generation. And many roadtrippers are families, with parents reliving the vacations they took as children, Cohen notes. National parks, which are often home to timeshares, continue to be a favorite for road trips—giving nearby resorts opportunities to capitalize on these travelers. Since road-trippers are typically passing through, resorts with flexible accommodations may be best poised to capture this sector. “We’re seeing more Points vacations, which are typically three- to five-night stays,” says Marissa Andrick, marketing and media specialist for Massanutten
Resort, outside Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The area is home to Skyline Drive, a scenic highway affording stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Our rental department brings in smaller groups that like the three-day, two-night stay.” To attract road-trippers, Cohen suggests advertising in drive-from markets that are within about a 10-hour radius and partnering with tourism boards. You can promote the location as a great road-trip pick and position the resort as a stay option during that vacation. If you have pet-friendly accommodations, be sure to get the word out— MMGY found that millennials like to bring their pets along on road trips. Massanutten caters to road-trippers by handing out complimentary maps and keeping a printed visitors’ guide at the concierge desk. Andrick also recommends building varied itineraries and finding community partners. “It’s important to show a potential guest that it is worth their time to make the trip.” —JESSEN O’BRIEN To purchase the full report, 2017–2018 Portrait of American Travelers by MMGY Global, go to mmgyglobal.com.
D I D YO U K N OW ?
Road-trippers account for
of American travelers, or an estimated
households. These travelers went on a combined
99.7 million vacations and spent
on leisure travel within 12 months.
Source: 2017–2018 Portrait of American Travelers
RCI VENTURES 9
Climbing the Social Ladder What steps can the hospitality industry take to make social media platforms the most effective direct marketing tools? BY SU NSHIN E FLINT I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y R YA N G A R C I A
1 0 201 8 O U TLO O K
RCI VENTURES 11
WITH 2.8 BILLION social media users active worldwide, the platforms that engage these users and become ever more part of their day-to-day interactions have also become indispensable marketing channels for brands around the globe. There was a 22 percent increase in worldwide social media use from 2016 to 2017, with a total global penetration of 37 percent, which means that a significant portion of a resort property’s customer base is on one or more social media platforms every day. In the United States alone, nearly 70 percent of the population uses some type of social media, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2017 Social Media Fact Sheet. Demographics show that social media use is broad and growing across all age groups. For example, 80 percent of all 30- to 49-year-olds use at least one social media site, as do 64 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds. In the hospitality industry, there is increasing use of these channels for marketing, publicizing and booking, and it is imperative that resort and hotel properties understand the scope and best practices for them. 12 201 8 O U TLO O K
Social media marketing is both a two-way communication tool and a revenue booster; its use is on the rise, and it has become an essential part of a hotel or resort’s overall marketing strategy. The 2017 AIF State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry report shows that 52 percent of resorts are using social media to publicize timeshare rentals, an increase from 40 percent in 2015 and ranking just behind a resort’s own website and online travel agencies. The marketing channels that resorts utilize for communication flow one way, but social media allows for two-way communication between property and customer—a direct way to make a good impression. “With the increase of social media usage and adoption, especially while traveling and on vacation, it’s the perfect medium for the timeshare industry to engage and increase brand awareness,”
says Adrienne Callandrello, director of social media for RCI. “Years ago, social media may have been seen as a nice-tohave in the marketing mix, but now it is a must-have, no question.” Start with a strategy When it comes to bang for your buck, social media is a top choice for lower marketing budgets. “Social is a small barrier of entry where you can create custom audiences,” Callandrello says. “If Google paid search doesn’t align with your budget, you can create a custom audience on Facebook and even create a look-alike audience to connect with owners and potential leads.” But regardless of budget, the first step for every resort, hotelier or timeshare operator is to come up with a targeted social media strategy and actionable goals. Determine what each social media platform should accomplish,
such as drive-to-book, raise brand awareness or encourage engagement with the content. It’s important to include a social media manager on the sales and marketing team or at least have a dedicated member or members of that team who work on the three core tasks of social media: customer service/engagement, managing feedback from the online community and creating great content. “Ensure that someone is owning your social media presence, someone who is accountable, seeing what works and creating reports,” Callandrello says. “It can’t be an afterthought.” It’s also important to understand the tools and actions that work best for each social media platform. Whether using Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, resorts need to target what to post or solicit, from great imagery to reviews to hashtags to user-generated
Above: Bluegreen Vacations has more than 50,000 followers on Facebook. It interacts daily with its owner base. Team members respond to each comment in an authentic voice and keep the conversation going.
Best practices A social media plan with a thorough understanding of which social media platform to use and how to use it will achieve the most effective results, including building brand loyalty and encouraging guest engagement. “The key is to fish where the fish are,” Callandrello says. “Where are your members the most active? What platform is your demographic using?” Different types of content work better on each platform, but the top three for resorts are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. FACEBOOK: With two billion monthly
active users worldwide, Facebook is the king of social media platforms. In the U.S., 68 percent of adults use it, more than double the number of adults who use Twitter or Instagram, including 79 percent of 30- to 49-yearolds. The average amount of time spent daily on social media is 1.7 hours, and according to Forrester Research, adult smartphone owners access Facebook an average of eight times a day. Facebook is the core social media plat-
RCI VENTURES 13
content (UGC). Putting up the same content on each page will show the consumer that the resort isn’t engaged in communicating with them or about creating a personal connection, as will social media that only promotes deals or sales. “The relationship between customers and brands is based on trust and commitment,” says Juhee Kang, assistant professor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida. “Making the platform engaging and useful to potential customers is key for successful social media that can lead those members or visitors to eventually book.” Social media as direct marketing can best be achieved by creating community and personal interaction. “There are typically two types of users: active posters and passive readers. Both are important for a successful community,” Kang adds.
Include a social media manager on the marketing team or have a dedicated member who works on the three core tasks of social media: customer service/ engagement, managing feedback and creating great content. —ADRIENNE CALLANDRELLO, RCI’s director of social media
form for the timeshare demographic, according to Callandrello. The social media team has the ability to post multiple times a day, share different types of stories and try out new types of content. “It’s a great place to weave in deals and promotions along with engaging content about your property or location. Think of it as a jab, jab,
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jab, hook approach,” Callandrello says. “Don’t just post sale messages or else you’ll lose your community and engagement.” Encourage followers to start conversations and share stories about their stays, tag one another, ask questions—there’s more of a communal feel on F acebook than any of the other platforms. And because the
Below: Karma Group has nearly 30,000 followers on its Instagram feed. The company creates a unique look and feel on its feed with destination and property shots.
algorithm changes what people see, posts fall off the feed, and resorts can try out different types of posts. INSTAGRAM: While 90 percent of
Instagram users are 35 or younger, 31 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds are on the photo-sharing platform. Globally, it has 700 million unique monthly users, and 80 percent of them follow various brands. Instagram is where resorts share what they are all about, what’s new and exciting and what the property offers. “The demographic is a bit older now, and resorts need to appeal to the right audience,” Callandrello says. “They need to use the right hashtag and also create the overall look, tone and feel.” Resorts should drill down on the aesthetic they are trying to convey. Home away from home? Relaxation and tranquility? Adventure? This means managing the photographs, whether they’re stock,
pro or UGC, and making sure they all have the same level of quality. Don’t create a mishmash of quality professional photos and poorly lit UGC. The feed needs to be structured so that it looks like a clearly defined brand, from the colors to the subjects to Stories or live video. TWITTER: While Twitter’s growth
OTHER PLATFORMS: If a resort has
abundant quality video, consider a YouTube channel, which is great for users searching for content already. Snapchat pioneered Stories and is a travel-friendly platform. Pinterest is a great fit for brands in the travel and hospitality industry if they have the staff to build out boards around the activities, food, landscape and amenities. While it takes resources to do, Pinterest doesn’t have the short shelf life of other social media platforms. People searching, planning and dreaming about their trips can find pins from six months ago.
WHEN TO PINTEREST
For resorts that have the time, staff and resources, this social media platform with more than 300 million monthly users can be a successful driver of bookings. People referred by Pinterest are 10 percent more likely to make a purchase online than users of other platforms. 1. Create two or three core boards that are specific to your resort. For example, a rest-and-relaxation-themed board that shows the pool, the gardens or the spa. 2. Create images that are specific to Pinterest and not used on any of your other social media. Size it correctly and use text or a caption that describes what the photo is showing. 3. Find content that supplements yours, re-pin it to your board, and keep new content flowing in. 4. Success on Pinterest is measured by how many times the content is shared, saved and re-pinned. So choose quality over quantity and invest the time to create a few great pins a month that will get shared. Think 5, not 50.
on the platform, such as publicizing exclusive offers, or make it a place where users share their personal experiences without expecting rewards or compensation, you create a relationship of trust,” Kang says. “This creates a brand community that helps members and potential guests and can lead to bookings.” FOR MORE , RE AD “P I NT E RE ST P RI MER ” AT R C I V E N T U R E S .C O M
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has plateaued at around 330 million active monthly users, it is still the platform that customers use for instant communication, complaints and questions, with more male users than female, unlike Facebook and Instagram. This is the top spot for customer care, Callandrello says— it’s the first place people go to complain. Resorts should have a staffing plan in place to respond immediately—a couple hours’ delay in answering a complaint isn’t acceptable anymore—including nights and weekends. Resorts should set up alerts and notifications and have staff check the Twitter feed numerous times a day. Pay attention to using trending or popular hashtags and include links to your website. Also ensure that the location of your property is in your bio; otherwise, your resort won’t come up in Twitter searches for hotels in a particular destination.
People power Resort staff is an undeniable asset when it comes to social media. Showcasing them makes employees and guests feel good. For example, if the front-desk person has been there for a long time, the resort can create a feature about why they love helping their timeshare owners year after year. Also have staff take over the social channels and have them show off the destination with a local flair. Of course, staff should follow the owners and members on social media so that they can see the feedback loop and know what types of conversations are going on. When it comes to influencers, a local one makes the most sense for showing the benefits of timeshare. “Spending a lot of money on a global influencer may not prove a positive ROI,” Callandrello says. “Find a local influencer who can stay at the resort for a week, show what it’s like to stay there and create a lot of content you can use on your feeds.” If it goes well, you can create an ongoing relationship with them. Social media is an opportunity to cultivate a special targeted community of timeshare owners, renters and potential guests. Resorts publicizing timeshare rentals can drive people from a Facebook promotion to a landing page where they can fill out a form and put in their address, which can then be used to create a private list or custom audience of future renters. On Twitter or Facebook, resorts can introduce special offers that reward guests with an in-room gift if they book and post or tweet about it. Capture those guests and create a list of people who can be directly marketed to in the future. But most important, you can create a space where guests and owners communicate freely as well as share their experiences and their own content, such as photos, reviews and tips. “If you enhance the value of information
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On Point Rick Sargent, president and CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp., reflects on why he thinks the timeshare industry is moving in the right direction. BY SU NSHIN E FLINT P H O T O G R A P H S B Y S H E L LY S T R A Z I S
on a car lot is sometimes a cliché for the ultimate salesman, but in Rick Sargent’s case, it’s how his career in the timeshare industry began. While he was working at a dealership, colleagues began moving to Southern California to work in the burgeoning new arena of timeshare sales, and Sargent soon followed. In 1980, at the start of the timeshare industry, Sargent joined World Wide Vacations and quickly became known as a specialist in off-site timeshare sales. From there he was recruited to build a timeshare-sales market in New Zealand and then went to Australia, where he lived for a year before returning to the U.S. He then started working at resorts in Southern California and Hawaii. “I began so early in the timeshare market that industry data and trends were being established with each new resort,” Sargent says. “But it was only working at Winners Circle Resorts and Pahio Resorts that I really came to understand how all the pieces of a timeshare program fit together.”
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The timeshare industry has evolved to address the one objective every consumer has raised: flexibility.
—RICK SARGENT, president and CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp.
Sargent credits the developers of those properties, Jim Watkins and Dave Walters respectively, with showing him the inner workings of timeshare development. It was his time on Kauai at Pahio in particular that taught him the most. “Dave was a visionary with grand plans who recognized the development opportunities of what was, in 1996, a quiet island with little tourism,” Sargent says. “He allowed me to take his product sales off-site and hire brokers in Illinois, California, Arizona and Washington. Within 18 months, we tripled the sales volume.” Sargent credits his early lessons in developing a platform for offsite marketing and sales for giving him the foundation to build his own development company. Based in California, he founded Global Exchange Development Corp., in 2002, and created Global Exchange Vacation Club (GEVC), in 2003, after he perceived there was a challenge not being met in the timeshare industry. Resorts and single-site timeshare projects that entered into the market early, known as legacy resorts, had sold out and were trying to find secondary markets for their intervals. About 600, or 40 percent, of the 1,558 resorts surveyed in the ARDA International Foundation’s 2017 State of the Vacation Timeshare Industry: United States Study had opened prior to 1996. After helping to create a broker network for conversions to the RCI® Points program, Sargent had a relationship with a number of HOA boards and management companies and saw an opportunity to give new life to these existing timeshare products. “I had the idea of creating a timeshare club that would acquire legacy resorts’ inventory and directly solve some challenges, such as assessment collection and reserve replenishment, by rebranding and creating new value for the owners,” Sargent says. “RCI played an instrumental role in the launch and success of GEVC.” In the beginning, Sargent was chief cook and bottle washer, involved in every aspect of the operation from tours to sales, and he even recruited his wife to handle the payroll and bookkeeping. Now he has almost
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500 employees, and GEVC has nearly 20,000 members and now adds 5,000 new ones a year. But he is proudest of the way GEVC survived the Great Recession when other companies did not. “We had to take stock of our strategy, business model, resources and business partnerships,” he says. “They were very lean years, but we retooled our product, sales and marketing strategy to find the perfect balance, and we rebounded.” One of the keys to this success is that GEVC remains choosy about which boards and management companies it partners with. “We think we are an excellent partner, and our goal is to acquire inventory and thereby create an influx of cash for legacy projects that allows investments in renovation, ensures resort longevity and creates an appealing product for the new consumer,” Sargent says. GEVC held off expanding beyond key California and Texas markets because it was perfecting the model before challenging it with scale, but now Sargent is ready to move GEVC into new geographic markets and is actively pursuing acquisition opportunities to fuel the company’s growth. Being willing to wait is part of his business philosophy. “I’m a believer that you take the time to do it right the first time,” he says. “Every successful person with whom I have worked in this business has lived that.” Learning patience has been the most important lesson of his career. “I’ve always been restless with delays, but I’ve learned that things happen at their own pace,” Sargent says. “Leaders need to be patient and maintain focus so that team members don’t go astray.” He invests in his team from the bottom up, imparting the company’s goals and mission even to part-time and hourly employees, which he says is all part of building a great work ethic. “I really believe that you are only as good as the people around you.” Today, in addition to expanding GEVC to new parts of the country, making acquisitions and adding new legacy resorts to its inventory, Sargent is seeing how that expansion coincides with trends in the timeshare industry.
Above and opening spread: Rick Sargent, president and CEO of Global Exchange Development Corp.
He sees GEVC as well positioned to capture the nextgeneration timeshare consumer—including millennials, who are entering the timeshare market, and baby boomers, who are retiring—by giving them the flexibility that travelers want and the quality they desire at the price point they expect. “Consumers want everything yesterday,” he says. “Points allow the timeshare product to adapt to the flexibility they demand, from immediate access to accommodations.” GEVC also targets potential owners who might be left behind by the higher price points or don’t qualify for a tour at certain developments or clubs. “We designed GEVC to enable a low-cost point of entry to vacation ownership that allows our members to bite off more as they want more,” Sargent says. “We created a legitimate, highsatisfaction point of access to timeshare ownership for the consumer who may start small, and we built it around a relationship, not a transaction.”
On his days off, Sargent spends time with his wife, family and friends, usually over a dinner he cooked himself. “My wife and I raised three terrific kids who still come for Sunday dinner and won’t let us vacation without them,” he says. “That is more meaningful to me than I can accurately describe.” An avid golfer, he often designs those vacations around golf but also loves to go skiing and waterskiing. His goal is to make such vacations more accessible to his members and new customers. “I feel very fortunate to have traveled throughout the world and have so many fantastic holiday memories. I love a great adventure,” Sargent says. “By bringing down the cost of entry and ownership, we reduce the perceived risk of a timeshare purchase, and at the same time, we deliver exceptional vacation experiences.”
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IN DEV ELOPMENT
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Going With the Flow
BY SU NSHIN E FLINT
Tubing down the White River in Ocho Rios.
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IN DEV ELOPMENT
Jamaica’s record-high number of visitors and surge of investments and tourism initiatives mean everything’s going to be all right on this Caribbean island.
IN DEV ELOPMENT
Above, clockwise from top: The historic Rose Hall, on a hill near Montego Bay; Scotchie’s famous jerk chicken; the Bob Marley Museum, in Kingston. Opposite: Negril’s pristine Seven Mile Beach.
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is an island all-star in the Caribbean— a top choice for travelers from the U.S. and Canada and one of the five most visited destinations in the region. And those numbers are going up year on year. In 2017, U.S. visitors increased by 3.1 percent, while the Canadian market (Jamaica’s second-largest source market) saw a 7.1 percent jump. To keep momentum going, the Jamaican government is planning initiatives and improvements to attract more visitors and lure vacationers out of the resorts and into the surrounding towns and countryside. These initiatives include culinary trails, artisan villages and outdoor adventures, as well as a new emphasis on sustainable tourism and public-private partnerships. At press time, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) projected that Jamaica will receive 4.2 million visitors in 2017, a new record, surpassing 2016’s 3.84 million visitors. Roughly the size of Connecticut and home to nearly three million people, Jamaica has a service-based economy that largely relies on tourism. In the first half of 2017, the tourism industry earned $1.46 billion, a 5.8 percent rise from the first half of 2016. The island is attracting large infrastructure projects, such as the North-South Highway, a public-private partnership between the
Jamaican government and the China Harbour Engineering Company, which invested $730 million. The highway is one of the largest infrastructure developments in Jamaica in decades, and the Chinese-built toll road cut travel time between Kingston and Ocho Rios in half. It was the third phase of Jamaica’s Highway 2000 system, which is planned to extend to Montego Bay. Security is also a high priority for the Jamaican government, which established the District Constables Training Programme (DCTP), in 2016, and the Destination Assurance Councils, in 2017. The councils were launched in six resort areas around the island and identify and monitor the needs of the areas, while the DCTP adds an extra layer of security and prevents tourist harassment. At the same time, Jamaica continues to promote its strengths. “Jamaica has a globally recognized brand, amazing natural resources, a variety of vacation experiences and great local food,” says Eugenio Macouzet, RCI’s managing director, Caribbean. “It has always been a sought-after destination.” RCI’s first affiliation in Jamaica was in 1977, and there are currently 18 RCI affiliated resorts. While the country was an early entrant into timeshare, the legal and governmental framework wasn’t developed enough to attract developers in large numbers. But that has changed in recent years. “Jamaica has all the ingredients required for timeshare to be successful, including significant airlift, return visitors, loyal travelers and solid vacation clubs,” Macouzet says. “It’s in a great position to both embrace vacation clubs and keep the growth of traditional timeshare.” For the vacation ownership industry, timeshare
IN DEV ELOPMENT
Jamaica has all the ingredients required for timeshare to be successful: significant airlift, return visitors, loyal travelers and solid vacation clubs. — E U G E N I O M A C O U Z E T, RCI’s managing director, Caribbean
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IN DEV ELOPMENT
FOR MORE , RE AD “B RE AKI NG 4 MI L L I ON” AT R C I V E N T U R E S .C O M
in Jamaica is increasingly becoming a shorter-term or flexible vacation-club product rather than a traditional deeded timeshare. The biggest change has been the entrance in recent years of the international all-inclusive brands, the majority of which offer some kind of vacation ownership. “Much of the product sold in Jamaica is not deeded; it’s a membership rather than ownership,” Macouzet says.
Above: The green hills over Ocho Rios; a typical tropical fruit stand.
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Stirring it up Jamaica sees a rise every year in visitors and is concentrating on sustainable development with a number of partnerships, investments and initiatives. In November 2017, Jamaica hosted the U.N. World Travel Organization (UNWTO) conference on sustainable tourism, jobs and inclusive growth, which explored investment in global tourism and building public-private partnerships around the world. These types of partnerships are important to Jamaica because they are a means to growth for its economy, and they are a priority for the Ministry of Tourism. Currently, Jamaica experiences significant leakage of foreign exchange from tourism—30 cents on the dollar. (Leakage is the amount spent on importing products and services when the local economy can’t provide them.) To help keep that money in-country, artisan villages will be constructed, first in Falmouth and Ocho Rios, both of which see significant cruise-ship traffic. A Craft Development Institute (CDI), part of the Vision 2030 Jamaica National Development Plan, will train artisans and help them get their products into the craft villages. “The establishment of the CDI and the artisan villages will
better train Jamaica’s craftspeople to make a living off their work,” says Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica. “Tourism will play a large role in that.” Jamaica is also playing up its local and natural resources. The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, in the east of the country, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has many hiking and mountain-biking trails. Now the JTB aims to establish Jamaica as a global culinary destination with launches such as the Jamaica Blue Mountain Culinary Tour, a trail that is one of the first projects of the Gastronomy Network, a program that promotes culinary tourism across the island. The tour will include cafés, historic sites and producers of the famous Blue Mountain coffee, and it is the type of low-impact tourism that will directly benefit the local community and tour operators. “We are promoting our world-renowned cuisine and will provide visitors with firsthand farm-totable experiences,” Bartlett says, “including dishes and ingredients that uncover our cultural stories and history.” Projects such as these will attract more visitors, which attracts more development. “Jamaica has seen explosive growth in new hotels and rooms and the modernization of existing hotels,” Macouzet says. “Because of the good airlift, relatively inexpensive land and educated workforce, Jamaica will continue to see new resorts open.” Jamaica has approximately 28,000 hotel rooms, and by 2021, an additional 15,000 hotel rooms are projected to come online from both new developments and the expansion of existing resorts. In the past two years, AMResorts, Royalton, Moon Palace and Bahia Principe have opened resorts, with a combined total of close to 1,500 new suites.
PHOTOS, OPENING SPREAD: ALAMY; SECOND SPREAD: ALAMY (4); PREVIOUS PAGE: ISTOCKPHOTO (2)
Primed for growth With the continued rise in visitor numbers and corresponding hotel boom, the timeshare and vacation industry is becoming an increasing priority for Jamaica. “The timeshare industry has the potential to create new economic opportunities for Jamaicans while fueling investment and enhancing Jamaica’s international appeal,” Bartlett says. “These accommodations are a way for us to diversify our product mix so that we’re able to entice more travelers to the island, particularly repeat visitors.” The industry was boosted with the introduction of the Timeshare Vacations Act, in 2016, which gives legal recognition to timeshares in the form of right-to-use agreements and regulates the marketing, promotion and provision of timeshare accommodation. The Ministry of Tourism also sent a special delegation to ARDA to promote Jamaica as a timeshare destination and to encourage international developers to invest there. The number of RCI affiliated resorts is surging in response to Jamaica’s healthy tourism environment. “In the past few years, we have heavily grown the number of RCI members who travel to Jamaica,” Macouzet says. In addition, the Jamaican government is a welcome environment for business and those looking for ways to grow the timeshare segment. “Investors and developers are very happy with the market’s performance as the occupancy and ADR are high,” Macouzet says. Looking ahead As the number of visitors to Jamaica continue to skyrocket, RCI is working to promote and grow the vacation ownership industry on the island in two ways. RCI supports and attends the main trade shows, where current affiliates and prospective clients are presented with the benefits of having a presence in Jamaica. RCI also has specialty member-marketing programs that focus on Jamaica and affiliated resorts there. “Vacation ownership has already seen growth and will continue following the positive overall trend for tourism in Jamaica,” Macouzet says. Vacation ownership in Jamaica is increasingly a membership product that offers flexibility. “I see two types of new owners,” Macouzet says. “Young travelers seeking the Jamaican experience, and older travelers rediscovering Jamaica but in the higher-quality resorts.” Development and investment are booming, and while there will always be a niche for small boutique products, the larger resorts will have to combine high levels of service with increasing flexibility. Macouzet sees room for growth in Negril, in the western part of the island, and along Jamaica’s north coast. “Negril has a fantastic reputation with the least number of participating brands. Expect further growth also near Ocho Rios and the Rose Hall area, near Montego Bay,” Macouzet says. “In short, RCI subscribing members have a very good appetite for Jamaica.”
Moon Palace Jamaica, Ocho Rios Gonzalo Seemann, vice president of operations, Palace Elite Where are your owners from? Seventy percent are from the East Coast, 15 percent are from the rest of the United States, 7 percent are from Canada, and 8 percent from the U.K. Where do you expect to see more growth in membership sales in the next few years? The growth is in family group travel as well as couples, mostly from the U.S. market. What is the Jamaican government doing to help investment grow in Ocho Rios? The government has placed a priority on tourism and strongly supports everything that investors require in the resort and vacation ownership industry, from taxes to infrastructure, labor and customs. Tourism is a main source of economic growth for the island.
Zoëtry Montego Bay Jamaica Matthias Hohner, AMResorts regional commercial director, Latin America and English Caribbean Why is the resort’s location so special for Unlimited Vacation Club by AMResorts members and visitors? The resort, a AAA Four Diamond Award– winning boutique resort, is five minutes from the Sangster International Airport in the upscale Rose Hall neighborhood, where our members can enjoy the prestigious White Witch and Cinnamon Hill Golf Courses, popular Shops of Rose Hall and the famous Rose Hall Great House, all perfect for an afternoon outing. The resort has just 49 suites. Why does that appeal to UVC by AMResorts members? Zoëtry is the premium brand within the AMResorts hotel portfolio. The suites were designed with a holistic approach in three main buildings: Wood & Water, Bamboo and Blue Mountain—a nod to Jamaica’s ecological tapestry. The small number of rooms allows for more personalized service, and every member feels at home while on vacation. Where are your members from, and where do you see growth? A permanent favorite with U.S. and Canadian members, Jamaica is getting a lot of attention from the U.K. market year-round for the perfect family getaway. We were excited to see an increase of approximately 20 percent coming from Latin America in the beginning of 2017 compared with 2016. The majority of those members are from Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
Royalton Negril Resort & Spa Rebecca Tunstall, communications manager, TravelSmart VIP Why does the Royalton Negril Resort & Spa’s location make it special for owners and visitors? The property is on the breathtaking Seven Mile Beach, which is consistently named one of the best beaches in the world. The prime location right on the peninsula offers visitors a level of privacy on its white-sand beaches unlike any other hotel on the island. When we opened, in 2017, our innovative design concept, unique blend of Jamaican culture and exceptional personalized service set a new, higher standard within the luxury-tourism and all-inclusive hotel market in Jamaica. Where do you expect to see more growth in membership sales in the next few years? We expect to continue to grow our consolidated market in the U.S. and Canada (currently 53 percent are from the U.S. and 25 percent from Canada), in which our members have found that our product is tailored to their travel needs. We hope to see further growth in the U.K. and European markets as our company continues to expand in islands such as Saint Lucia, Saint Martin and Antigua.
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TECHNOLOGY & MARKETING
Speaking Their Language What the surge in voice search and technology means for resorts and how to get a growing market of talkers to listen. BY J E SSE N O ’ B RIE N I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y D A N M AT U T I N A
CONVERSING with a machine used to be the stuff of science
fiction, but with the rise of voice-activated smart speakers we are now entering a new era of voice technology. Thanks to voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, there are tens of millions of devices we speak to every day, and that number is only expected to grow as voice-powered technology becomes more commonplace. Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted during his keynote address at the 2016 Google I/O conference that 20 percent of queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are already voice searches. In fact, by 2020 half of all searches will be conducted by voice, estimated Andrew Ng, former chief scientist at Chinese search engine Baidu. The rise of voice-powered technology will add a new layer to how travelers interact with brands, and in turn the hospitality industry will need to adapt to a voice-powered approach to search and booking. As travelers turn to voice assistants to plan their vacations, resorts will need to adjust their website SEO strategies to be captured by voice search engines. Consumers today are purchasing low-cost products via voice-powered technology and are just starting to book travel—and tomorrow, resorts who unveil sophisticated voicepowered booking platforms will be best poised to capture these consumers. Amazon’s Echo Show device, which debuted in June 2017 and combines Alexa with a touch screen and motion-sensitive video camera, may prove a pivotal product. Now consumers can ask a question and see the response, pull up a to-do list or even use multiple Echo Show devices as an intercom system. “We think this interface can open entirely new opportunities for hospitality brands to create engaging experiences—from displaying pictures or videos of a requested attraction to taking the customer on a guided tour of the property,” says Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Smart Home, the retailer’s department for smart devices. Furthering its commitment to smartscreen products, Amazon announced the new Echo Spot in September 2017. It offers the display of Echo Show within a compact device. It’s clear that hospitality brands will have to shift their approach to reach consumers on these new platforms, whether it’s direct voice search or voice search with display. Breaking new ground Voice assistants have been integrated into smartphones since Apple introduced Siri, in 2011, but they didn’t really take off until the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers were launched, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. “We had Siri in our pockets for years, with users able to push a button and speak to someone who has access to more information,” says Armand
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T H E AU D I E N C E
Whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s using voice technology Thirty-seven percent of smartphone users turn to voice-search technology at least once a month; 18 percent employ it at least weekly. Users are more likely to be male, affluent and young. Forty-three percent of male users interact with voice technology monthly; 48 percent of users have an annual household income of more than $66,000; and half of users are ages 18 to 34. Source: 2017 Speak Easy report by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group London and Mindshare Futures
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Rabinowitz, senior director of strategy and workgroups at Hospitality Technology Next Generation. “But the real improvement came when Amazon added the Alexa assistant to Echo, so it’s now ready to listen to your instruction without the need to press a button.” Echo uses on-device keyword spotting to detect a wake word, such as Alexa or Echo, and responds when a consumer cues it. Voice technology has begun making strides in developed markets. “The largest outbound market in the world, China, has heavily adopted voice messaging,” says Terence Ronson, managing director for hospitality consultancy Pertlink Limited. “Consider that China’s online population currently stands at 751 million...[and] the low price of Echo Dot and similar gadgets, then this alternate user interface becomes a real possibility.” This technology isn’t just transformative for the average middle-class Chinese or American, either. In developing countries such as India, where only a fraction of its 1.3 billion residents are online and there’s a 72.1 percent adult literacy rate (according to the United Nations Development Programme’s 2015 statistics, the most recent available), voice technology has the ability to help put millions of people online for the first time. There’s great potential as well for people with disabilities or the elderly, who may be able to accomplish tasks they couldn’t perform—or could only with difficulty—before.
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THE AU D I E N C E
Why they’re using it The top three reasons consumers use voice technology are: It’s convenient (55 percent) It’s simple to use (52 percent) It’s faster than typing (49 percent) Source: 2017 Speak Easy report by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group London and Mindshare Futures
There are still challenges. Convincing consumers to purchase a product by voice remains a hurdle, especially in hospitality. Kayak began offering voice-powered hotel bookings through Echo in July 2017, but it’s difficult for users to compare results or learn more details about a property via voice alone. “Without a screen, [purchasing] is limited to products customers are comfortable buying sight unseen,” Rabinowitz says. That often means items with a lower price point. “Fortunately, there are voiceactivated devices that are coming with screens, like the Echo Show.” Screens could be a crucial addition because travelers can view and compare resorts before booking. Although voice-enabled technology is in its early days, technologists are confident in its ability to reshape the world. “We believe that voice is the future and will fundamentally improve the way people interact with technology,” Kindel says. “It can make the complex simple—it’s the most natural and convenient user interface. Voice removes a lot of barriers and friction, and we’ve found that removing the tiniest amounts of friction from everyday activities improves customers’ lives.” Just look to consumers: Among people who use voice technology regularly, 87 percent agreed that “when voice technology works properly, it really simplifies my life,” reported J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group London and Mindshare Futures in a 2017 study, Speak Easy.
Smart speakers such as Google Home are increasingly becoming a fixture in consumers’ homes.
both voice search SEO and traditional SEO or risk losing out on a segment of customers who might use only one or the other method of searching,” Bentahar says.
THE AU D I E N C E
What they’re doing with it The top three reasons people report using voice technology are for online search (63 percent); to ask a fun question (55 percent); and to play music (50 percent). Thirty-three percent of consumers use voice technology to check travel information. Eighteen percent of people who regularly use voice technology have purchased a product using voice without looking on a website first, while 24 percent have bought a product with voice technology after having browsed for it elsewhere. Source: 2017 Speak Easy report by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group London and Mindshare Futures
Building the future Voice search is just the beginning. It’s when new voice-activated commands (which Amazon refers to as skills) are developed and voice is combined with other technologies that it becomes truly powerful. Rabino witz imagines one day not only being able to search and book on a smart device but also having it predict the stay options that would work best for the individual consumer based on past preferences, such as price point and brand—or even information consumers wouldn’t think to ask about, like that a friend has moved to the destination they are planning to visit. For example, an owner could ask for resorts with rooms available within a certain season and destination, and the virtual assistant could pull up options based on the owner’s Points or Weeks balance, the owner’s historic resort preferences and travel information about any friends or family staying in the area at that time. For those brands that decide to develop their own voice skills, Amazon offers resources and a list of agencies that can help (developer.amazon.com/alexa/agenciesand-tools). Before taking the plunge, Ronson recommends conducting a proof of concept. “Maybe enlist the help of focus groups for testing the concept to be sure it really works for what you’re trying to achieve and that those folks would actually use it,” Ronson says. Always keep utility and guest needs in mind. Bentahar suggests that commands could be developed that would allow consumers to use an at-home smart speaker to update a booking, ask questions about amenities or get directions. Resorts can consider the in-room experience as well. For example, a voiceenabled checkout skill could be built that would ask guests about their stay while settling the bill. “Enabling guests to tell a device feedback that’s going to be recorded just as it’s stated and will go to the right channels could certainly increase the percentage of feedback we receive,” Rabinowitz says. Guests who share their concerns directly during checkout may be less likely to share complaints on TripAdvisor or another public forum. The next great leaps in voice technology will take users even further into the realm of science fiction. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and speech science, and we’re working hard to innovate quickly,” Amazon Smart Home’s Kindel says. How these developments will play out remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: There is opportunity for hospitality brands that experiment with voice technology today to surpass guests’ expectations and set a new standard for tomorrow.
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Making yourself heard Voice technology has the potential to tap into new markets and reframe existing ones, but to fully leverage it, hospitality brands will need to learn new SEO strategies. There are marked differences between SEO for typed searches and the methods needed to optimize voice-search results—and the stakes are much higher. “In the past, it might have been enough to rank on the first page for a search term, as customers would be looking at a screen and have the ability to scroll through the options to find what they think is the best,” says Amine Bentahar, the chief operating and digital officer for Advantix Digital, one of the country’s first digitalmarketing and SEO agencies. “With voice search, the websites and businesses that perform best will be the ones at the top of the list, as the digital assistant is going to give the user just one answer. The importance of ranking first and being the top recommendation will be paramount to online success.” To achieve that top result, Bentahar advises developing content that’s more conversational in tone, especially on an FAQ page. In a typed search, consumers often enter simple phrases, so traditional SEO prioritizes short keywords, but in a voice search they ask full questions, which means a shift to long-tail keywords. (A long-tail keyword consists of multiple keyword phrases, each of which is highly specific.) Long-tail keywords are especially relevant for searches on smart speakers. Since these devices are almost always activated at home, queries may focus on research or shopping, and those results are impacted by keyword strategy. Resorts that optimize their long-tail-keyword strategy can improve their chances of appearing as a top voice result for stay options when owners research upcoming travel. As voice-booking technology develops and people become more accustomed to making significant purchases by voice, users will potentially be able to seamlessly transition from researching to booking. Local SEO is especially pertinent to smartphone voice searches, which often happen when people are driving and looking for recommendations close to them. “A good strategy there will be to carefully categorize your business to make sure it comes up in these types of local SEO searches,” Bentahar says. He suggests adding locations throughout a website as well as contact details, which will allow users to reach out to a resort when it comes up as a search result. It’s often easier and safer, while on the go, to ask a question out loud than to type it—especially when driving—so being able to provide recommendations that are near the user is key. Resorts with last-minute stay options can optimize their local SEO to capture travelers looking for a room nearby. Even while moving toward voice SEO, remember to optimize for both systems, written and voice searching, to reach the widest possible range of consumers. “Resorts today need to focus on the best practices for
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IN DUSTRY SOLUTIONS
Meet TravelVue This new social-media-monitoring platform aims to give you the support you need so you can give your customers the support they want. Social media users are no longer satisfied with traditional online customer service from brands. Instead, they’re looking for someone they can reach out to day or night and receive a quick, personal response. To keep up with this ever-shifting landscape—and with consumers’ 24/7 mind-set—brands need the same support: someone who can lend a hand and provide the help you need, when you need it, whether
“This new product puts affiliates at the forefront and empowers them to take action.” your focus is on advertising, content or customer-care performance. Meet TravelVue, a multifaceted social-analytics and support system from RCI that strives to be as active and responsive as social media itself. “We’re evolving to line up with where social is today and focusing on how we can use our expertise as social marketers to cater to the needs of affiliates,” says Dave Thomas, social media manager at RCI. “TravelVue provides dynamic reporting that serves
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Some of the core features and add-on services for TravelVue may include:
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as a highly accessible measurement for affiliates’ social activity.” TravelVue builds on the success of RCI’s award-winning Timeshare Online Listening Center (TOLC), which monitors Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and more than 30 review sites—as well as 150 million blogs and forums—for 9,000-plus resorts around the world. Social media channels and user behavior have changed greatly since TOLC debuted six years ago, calling for an updated system that addresses some of social marketers’ main concerns, including: • Facebook’s new pay-to-play model and the decline of organic reach • Consumers’ preference to access customer service via social media • Consumers’ expectations for nearreal-time engagement with brands across multiple social platforms • The ability to run successful targeted ad campaigns on social platforms • The ability to find all non direct brand mentions TravelVue seeks to compile frequent reports that monitor both an affiliate’s overall brand and individual resorts and are updated often to help capture how trending items impact a brand in time to shift a social strategy. Because
Brand Footprint: Near-real-time reporting on the brand conversation across a spectrum of online channels
Social Channel Recaps: Robust reports are frequently generated on affiliate brand mentions on individual social platforms
TravelVue’s reporting is envisioned to be more real-time, affiliates can quickly take actions that positively impact brand sentiment. Responsive reporting enables affiliates to filter data by a date range and other factors, or hone results to spotlight a specific property. Thanks to the tiered pricing model TravelVue will offer, affiliates can sign up for a package that’s right for them. They will also be able to take advantage of à la carte features that address specific needs, such as social care, in which TravelVue’s social media consultants monitor brand mentions across a variety of platforms and provide affiliates with suggested responses so they can activate quickly. Premium models may offer other perks like access to a third-party content-programming and scheduling platform. TravelVue seeks to give affiliates the tools they need to make decisions quickly, whether the question is how to respond to consumer feedback or maximize a campaign’s success. “This new product can help to put affiliates at the forefront and empowers them to take action,” Thomas says. “They can use the core product as a litmus test to ensure campaigns are functioning effectively and that their message is getting out there.”
Resort Reporting: Dynamic reporting, enabling affiliates to sort results by various categories and date ranges and to filter down data to the individual resort level
TO L E A R N MORE:
Contact your Account Executive for details on TravelVue.
Social Analytics: Enhanced reporting on paid and engagement performance on Facebook and other channels
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Join the Club Looking to add value to resort ownership? Discover Club 365, a powerful benefits platform offered by RCI that provides owners with exciting perks they can use throughout the year and serves as a tool to transition nonbuyers to an enticing trial or exit program— all while increasing resort revenue. “Club 365 allows affiliates to give members thousands of dollars of savings each year on a host of great products and experiences,” says Morgan Hansill, director of the International Cruise & Excursions, Inc., Alliance for RCI. “It also lets affiliates incentivize and reward members for paying club dues and maintenance fees.” Members receive Savings Dollars when they enroll in Club 365 and can earn more through an annual allotment or Partner Perks; as rewards for maintenance-fee payments; by uploading receipts from approved merchants to the new Snap 365 smartphone app; and more. Savings Dollars can be redeemed for dollar-for-dollar cash savings on a range of products, such as resort vacations, cruises, name-brand merchandise, wine or tours. When redeeming Savings Dollars, members can compare how much the product would cost at other qualified retailers. Members can choose to give their Savings Dollars to friends or
family, or to transfer them to their RCI Platinum® account to combine discounts from both programs. Members who have questions can call the Club 365 sales center. Club 365 is designed as a flexible rewards platform so that affiliates can create the program that works for their owners. Affiliates can choose among one of four annual Savings Dollar allotments for their owners, which range from $1,000SD to $3,000SD. A special version of Club 365 built as a trial or exit program provides a separate tier of $1,000SD for affiliates to help with marketing costs. Resorts can reward strong sales performance by giving staff access to VIP Club 365 accounts. And to help show off the product, Club 365 provides affiliates with sales materials describing Savings Dollars and benefits; sales brochures ;and member brochures. Additional collateral such as banners and posters can also be provided at cost. “Club 365 not only allows members a set amount of saving each year but also gives them opportunities to earn additional savings,” Hansill says. “This benefits platform can be used to add value for existing owners, increase closing rates or build a pipeline for future prospects.”
TO L E A R N MORE:
Contact your Account Executive for details on Club 365.
*Not all states allow delivery of alcohol. Due to state regulations and/or shipping requirements we cannot ship wine to the following states AK, AR, AL, DE, HI, KY, MS, OK, RI, UT, VA. The purchase of alcohol by persons under the age of 21 is prohibited by law. At the time of delivery, the carrier will require age verification and signature of a person that is 21 years of age or older. Packages will not be left that do not meet these requirements.
REDEEM • Savings Dollars can be redeemed in the following ways: • Hotel • Cruise • Guided Vacations • Wine* • Merchandise • FLEX 365: Ability to flex savings dollars from Platinum account to Club 365 (Owner benefit—call-in only) • GIVE 365: Ability to give Savings Dollars to friends or family (online benefit) • EVR Stays: • Getaway Stays: Fixed Rate per-week Rental Rate (currently $299) • Preferred Stays: 30 percent off Rental Rate
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PHOTOS: COURTESY OF RCI
RCI® gives owners more value and helps attract prospects with Club 365℠, a new benefits program.
EARN • Annual allotment of Savings Dollars based on tier level • Capacity to earn Savings Dollars per year based on tier level (see below for behaviors to earn): • $100SD per Air or Car booking • Dining and Entertainment as designated by the Affiliate through file transfer • Maintenance fee/Club due payments rewards by the affiliate through file transfer • Additional earn of Savings Dollars above annual tier cap through BANK 365 (deposit week for Savings Dollars — Owner benefit): • H/S – $550SD • 1Bed – $750SD • 2Bed – $1,250SD • 3Bed+ – $1,500SD
PA L M E R A VAC AT I O N C L U B
The Partnership Advantage
On Hilton Head, Palmera Vacation Club delivers the ultimate island experience across four distinct resorts.
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Below: South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island is known for its white sandy beaches.
IF TIMING IS EVERYTHING, location is a close runner-up. South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island—only 12 miles long by 5 miles wide—is consistently ranked one of the country’s top vacation spots, and little wonder. Golf lovers flock here for the pristine courses; sun-seeking families for the miles of coastline; and naturalists for the abundant wildlife (there are dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, alligators and many varieties of birds). These attributes are not bound to any one season: Temperatures are warm in the spring, summer and fall, and mild in the winter. Not only does
the island’s modest size lend it an air of exclusivity, but getting around is simple. You’re almost always close to a bicycle path or within walking distance of a beach. This trifecta of diverse activities, year-round appeal and the ease of navigating the island draws vacationers from throughout the East Coast and as far away as Canada and Europe looking to escape harsh winters. Enter Palmera Vacation Club (PVC). Its portfolio comprises four resorts on Hilton Head that each consistently earns the RCI Gold Crown® Resort award: Coral
Sands, Island Links, Port O’Call and Coral Reef. All four also hold a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Conventional wisdom aside, Palmera Vacation Club knows that resting on the destination’s appeal is not enough to cultivate the kind of unforgettable experiences that assure success over the long term. Which is why the brand takes a strategic approach, uniquely positioning each of its properties, forging meaningful partnerships and offering their guests a suite of practical global benefits. And yet PVC primarily attributes these distinctions to something more fundamental: staying engaged with owners and both listening to their feedback and giving them what they are requesting in return. “We want our owners to experience vacations the way they were meant to be,” says Dean Pierce, Palmera’s chief executive officer.
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A diverse portfolio Palmera Vacation Club caters to a wide demographic, ranging from young families to golf foursomes to empty nesters and everyone in between. Layouts reflect this: In addition to three-bedroom units, PVC recently expanded their inventory to include one-bedroom units that can expand to two-bedrooms to provide more accommodation options for owners. Each of the four resorts has its own appeal. On 15 acres in the island’s beach district, Coral Sands caters to young families (it’s the first and only resort on the island with a lazy river) and is surrounded by some of the island’s most exciting restaurants, bars and shops. The 16-acre Island Links is great for families and golfers (it’s surrounded by golf courses, and there are lots of children’s activities, such as arts and crafts) within the oceanfront Port Royal Plantation, a gated community that was the setting of an important chapter in history: It was on the Port Royal Plantation’s shores that Captain William Hilton—for whom the island is named—landed, in 1663.
— D E A N P I E R C E , chief executive officer of Palmera Vacation Club
Meanwhile, Port O’Call and Coral Reef are popular with vacationers seeking an exclusive setting. Port O’Call—a string of picturesque cottages within the scenic Shipyard Plantation, an 800-acre gated community fronting the Atlantic Ocean—affords private beach access. Coral Reef is also set within this community, between the third and fourth holes of the award-winning Brigantine golf course. Between all four properties, there is something for every kind of vacationer. Not surprisingly, most guests at all four resorts stay for at least a week.
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The power of partnership Each resort in the Palmera Vacation Club portfolio offers its own take on the activities available to guests. At Port O’Call, guests receive complimentary tennis at Van Der Meer Tennis and a daily round of golf without paying greens fees at one of several courses on the island and complimentary use of the Shipyard Plantation Beach Club. Guests at Coral Reef get the same benefits as well as bicycles for exploring paths on- and off-property. Like those of Port O’Call and Coral Reef, guests of Coral Sands have similar tennis and golf perks, and
FOR MORE , RE A D “WEATHERING THE STORM” AT R C I V E N T U R E S .C O M
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF PALMERA VACATION CLUB
Providing vacation-club members with a next-level experience through local partnerships is a very meaningful and valuable opportunity.
those staying at Island Links are privy to what PVC calls “low-key island life,” with pool access, on-site catch-andrelease fishing, complimentary tennis at the Port Royal Racquet Club and a daily round of golf at one of Port Royal Plantation’s award-winning courses. But guests have access to a world of benefits beyond the borders of their resort. A unique cornerstone of Palmera Vacation Club’s success is its relationships with businesses across a wide range of categories: attractions, dining, history, water sports and more. This allows PVC to provide guests with memorable experiences at discount prices. These offerings are seasonal and include events and festivals, of which there are many on the island. In the summer, both onand off-property, guests can partake in toasting s’mores, “dive-in” movies in the pool, outdoor oyster roasts, zip-lining tours and more. There are also historical walking tours, as well as day trips to Savannah’s historic district, Bluffton’s historic district, Daufuskie Island and Charleston.
“These partnerships give you a true feel for Hilton Head Island,” Pierce says. This holistic approach is paying off: “In the past two years we have experienced exciting growth in initial club-membership purchases as well as additional Point Packages by existing club members,” Pierce says. Global benefits Not all of Palmera Vacation Club’s partnerships are activity-based. Along with standard Points-based reservations, PVC provides owners with other accommodation opportunities
on Hilton Head, including deeply discounted rates at a non-timeshare option, the Park Lane Hotel & Suites. “This benefit affords members a way to bridge an upcoming stay,” Pierce says. In other words, check-in at a Palmera Vacation Club resort is on Sunday, but the guest can book a hotel stay for Friday or Saturday evening to begin their vacation early. Additionally, PVC’s Quest— Powered by Palmera program offers discounts on worldwide hotel stays as well as dining, shopping, movies and more; and the Smart Stay program offers last-minute travel deals, through which owners can use Points, cash or a combination to book and stay. There are also Split Stays. “Our owners were using these products to a degree that surprised even us,” Pierce says. Owners have access to these programs via a smartphone app so that key resources are at their fingertips 24/7. Through the app, owners can manage every aspect of their ownership, from booking reservations and Points management to making payments and communicating with PVC. Vacations the way they were meant to be? With a robust, strategically differentiated portfolio, a compelling roster of local and global benefits, and engaged owners, Palmera has shown they can deliver. —RCI VENTURES STAFF
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From top: Guests at all four of Palmera Vacation Club’s resorts can play golf during their stay; units at Port O’Call.
Communication is essential—and for Palmera, often personal. PVC has a social media department that coordinates the brand presence across multiple platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. When a Coral Sands guest shared vacation photos on Facebook, the resort reshared them as an album, thanking the guest; the post received 1,200 likes and 18 shares. Another example: On June 12, 2017, Port O’Call asked its Facebook community who among them had visited the resort before. Of the many responses, one stands out: One guest wrote, “Our parents and children and now our grandchildren have been enjoying coming [here] on our family vacation. We will celebrate our 30th summer in a row at Port O’Call this July!” Port O’Call responded: “We love that Port O’Call is such a part of your family history! What wonderful memories you are sharing with your children and grandchildren! See you next month!”
ES J COLLEC TION
True Blue In Puerto Rico, ESJ Collection is reinventing itself and creating a 360-degree Caribbean experience for guests.
RECOGNIZING POTENTIAL, building on what already exists and creating an exciting new product are what investor and founder Keith St. Clair does best. Potential is what he saw in the 40-year-old ESJ Towers resort on the azure waters and powder white sands of Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico. And he has spent the past few years turning the property into ESJ Azul, part of the new ESJ Collection. The ESJ Towers was opened in 1975 by Jack Katz as one of the first timeshare
ESJ Azul sits on Puerto Rico’s iconic Isla Verde Beach.
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developments in the Caribbean, and St. Clair bought it in 2015. The Puerto Rican government granted St. Clair (a British citizen who moved to the United States in the 1990s) Act 22, a set of tax incentives for investors who move to the island that is helping to spur resort, casino and real estate development. St. Clair’s investment group poured $12 million into totally transforming the resort through a total renovation of the public areas and the rooms. His son
Richard and partner Chris Schroeder helped update the property. “It has been great fun to watch people who have been coming here for years enter the building and watch them think they came to the wrong place,” St. Clair says. “It is even more exciting when they realize they are in the right place.” Two more ESJ properties are coming on line and are part of the complete physical and brand rejuvenation that will give owners even more benefits and amenities.
Hurricane Maria Update As Hurricane Maria roared ashore last September 2017, ESJ Azul sustained damage to some of its rooms, elevators and corridors, but fortunately, no one was injured. After the storm, ESJ Collection and Keith St. Clair (who earlier had created an aid fund for Hurricane Irma victims) moved quickly to help residents of San Juan and Puerto Rico, flying aid down from Florida, hosting FEMA staff and providing 1,500 meals to residents and relief workers. As of press time, ESJ Azul was still under repairs but housing FEMA workers to aid the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. ESJ Azul plans to reopen in the first quarter of 2018. Work on ESJ Verde restarted just days after the hurricane, and the resort is expected to be open in the second quarter.
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for me to preserve such a legacy—it’s not just about the new-and-improved building but about the people who have been a part of it,” he explains. “We have more than 4,500 families who have been visiting us year after year since [the resort] opened in 1975 because they consider ESJ Azul and our staff their second home and extended family. And I believe that guests coming here for the first time will feel this same warmth.” The transformation of the property’s units is underway, including outfitting kitchens and bathrooms with new tile, countertops and appliances. The tower now has all-new high-speed elevators, and the hallways were repainted and recarpeted. Work being done in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria has sped up this process, and the units are expected to be refurbished sooner than originally anticipated. Home suite home Creating a home away from home is at the core of ESJ Collection’s
S A N J UA N
Isla Verde Beach ESJ Azul
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service philosophy, and many staff members have worked at the resort for decades. “Our staff consider our guests as guests in their homes, and we pride ourselves on welcoming our guests into our family and providing them with the best beach location and most spacious accommodations,” St. Clair says. Other amenities include the pool, a separate children’s pool, a game room, a cardroom and a new art gallery featuring photographs of Puerto Rico by Richard St. Clair that capture the beauty of Puerto Rico. ESJ is also one of the only resorts on the island to provide guests with kosher cookware. But the resort’s unparalleled location on Isla Verde Beach is its top selling point. “The idea is you walk out of our building and you are ‘toes in the sand,’ cold drink in hand, and paradise is your playground,” St. Clair says. The new sales center is an intimate space that makes prospects feel at home, and it’s dedicated to and named for an ESJ owner who was a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11. “One of our greatest benefits is not just our location and offerings but our legacy,” St. Clair explains. “Potential owners understand that we have been serving families for more than 40 years. There are owners who came here as newlyweds and now have
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ESJ AZUL; INSET: ISTOCKPHOTO
Above: A modern bar at ESJ Azul. Below: Historic architecture in Old San Juan.
A model makeover ESJ Azul is just five minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, plus Isla Verde Beach has many water sports available and great restaurants. All of the 456 studio, one- and three-bedroom units, which are some of the largest hotel rooms in the region, have a kitchen. But the building itself was dated and needed a total overhaul. The public areas were completed first, with a renovation of the lobby, lobby bar and restaurant (which also gained an expanded menu and hours of operation) in cool tones of blue and white, plus the lobby gained direct beach access. The resort also opened Cueva Bistro and a market and redid the fitness center, adding massage rooms. The resort stayed open for many of these updates. “Our staff never changed how they treated guests and owners,” St. Clair says. “For owners, they felt that the welcome changes far outweighed the little inconveniences.” He says their happy reactions to the remodel proved that he had made the right choices, especially for long-standing owners. “It has been truly satisfying
We pride ourselves on welcoming our guests into our family, providing them with the best beach location, the most spacious accommodations and a friendly place to call home. — K E I T H S T. C L A I R , founder and investor, ESJ Collection
adds value to owners’ vacation-club ownership. “Once people realize they can be part of our great legacy and enjoy the benefits that RCI provides, it’s an obvious choice,” St. Clair says. A triple play The benefits for owners will continue when two additional properties at ESJ Collection open in the next year.
Above: The large pool deck overlooking the Caribbean at ESJ Azul.
RCI VENTU RES 41
children and grandchildren enjoying ESJ Azul.” This history, along with the many amenities, kitchens and large guest rooms, draws not only holidaymakers but also those who are having a wedding or a family reunion. Owners also become part of the RCI network and can exchange to resorts worldwide. Belonging to RCI allows them to maximize their offerings and
“Our goal is to create an overall brand that has something for everyone,” St. Clair says. “We are moving rapidly on many timeshare projects in Puerto Rico, which is one of the most underserved markets.” The construction of these two buildings is part of the overall $150 million being invested in the ESJ Collection. The ESJ Verde, which broke ground in 2017, is a 78-room property adjacent to ESJ Azul that, with a contemporary design, a rooftop pool and bar with ocean views and full kitchens in every guest room, will be targeted to millennial couples and families. It is expected to open this year and allow owners to reserve their intervals soon. The ESJ Noir will be a five-star luxury resort and affiliate of The RCI Registry Collection® program to be set on a peninsula with sweeping 180-degree views of the ocean and the two bays along Isla Verde Beach. It will feature the largest overwater deck in the Caribbean and a rooftop bar. “ESJ Noir is designed to provide a luxury-oriented experience for jet-set couples, business executives, celebrities and anyone who desires the highest level of services and amenities,” St. Clair explains. It is expected to open after the ESJ Verde. By creating three unique properties on Isla Verde Beach, ESJ Collection aims to have something for everyone and will give its guests access to certain amenities provided by each of the properties. There will be programs that allow owners to upgrade into different levels of ownership so that they can enjoy the benefits at the other resorts. The combination of creating opportunities for new and upgraded ownerships, offering new benefits and continuing the amenities that owners love has resulted in a seamless transition for the new owners and management. It has also preserved the legacy of more than 40 years and sets the stage for growth and success in every facet of the collection.
T H E OW N E R S C L U B
What Owners Want Savvy partnerships and letting owners take the lead are at the core of The Owners Club’s success.
ROBERT DEDMAN, the founder of ClubCorp, the coun-
try’s largest owner and operator of private golf clubs, had a vision: let owners design their vacation experiences. He surveyed his existing ClubCorp members to find out what they were looking for, and their answers formed the basis of a new vacation ownership concept: The Owners Club. What did those members ask for? Single-family houses with access to private club amenities and fractional deeded ownership (so their children could inherit) were key. They also wanted cart-fee-only admittance to award-winning golf courses; access to nearby clubs and resorts; and the option of staying in their Club Home for at least 27 days each year—all at an initial purchase price of less than $300,000. Dedman set out to make that proposition a reality. Today there are Owners Clubs in four destinations— Austin, Texas; Hot Springs, Virginia; Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico—serving approximately 1,200 owners. Two of these offerings, The Owners Club at The Homestead, in Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, and The Owners Club at Barton
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The Owners Club at The Homestead is set on the grounds of The Omni Homestead Resort, in Virginia.
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— E R I C M O N K E R U D , club manager of The Owners Club at Barton Creek
Creek, in Texas Hill Country, are affiliated with The Registry Collection® program and are on the grounds of Omni Hotels and Resorts properties. Their relationship with Omni opens up a rich array of amenities their owners otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Both have stayed true to Dedman’s initial belief that if you empower owners to shape the offerings, success will follow. Building on a winning formula When The Owners Club at The Homestead and The Owners Club
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at Barton Creek were founded, The Homestead and Barton Creek Resort and Spa were successful ClubCorp resorts with loyal return guests. ClubCorp realized that these properties already had amenities that owners loved, and it smartly decided to give owners at both destinations access to the resorts’ golf courses, restaurants and other services so that they could continue enjoying those facilities. As a result, travelers who had returned to the resorts year after year became some of the first owners of the new vacation clubs.
“Our owners can take advantage of all the amenities the resort has. They enjoy special pricing on golf as well as access to member-only areas at the country club,” says Eric Monkerud, club manager of The Owners Club at Barton Creek. Club Homes are just a short walk or shuttle ride from the main properties, giving owners both privacy and the ability to enjoy a host of activities and services. Omni saw the benefits of this arrangement and agreed to keep it when the company purchased Barton Creek Resort and Spa and The Homestead in 2013. Access was only one part of the equation; maintaining the look of the main property was another. “Many of the initial families who joined The Owners Club at The Homestead were loyal patrons of The Homestead for many generations and wanted more of what the area had to offer,” says Karen Williams, general manager of The Owners Club at The Homestead. Hallmarks of Virginia’s history and architecture were thoughtfully incorporated into The Owners Club
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE OWNERS CLUB AT BARTON CREEK AND THE OWNERS CLUB AT THE HOMESTEAD
Because we see our ownership as an extended family, we are always looking for the little things we can do to make them smile.
at The Homestead. For example, the Club Homes’ stone fireplaces, porch columns and exterior colors reflect design elements commonly found in the region, and each unit is positioned for a view of the mountains. The Club Homes for The Owners Club at Barton Creek are similarly inspired, this time by the vernacular of Texas Hill Country. Earth tones echo the state’s natural features, while porches and balconies provide opportunities for long afternoons enjoying the sunshine.
Part of the family Thinking of owners as family members has guided the approach the staff takes to service at The Owners Club at Barton Creek and The Owners Club at The Homestead, with outstanding results. “Because we see our ownership as an extended family, we are always looking for the little things we can do to make them smile,” Monkerud says. That dedication comes through in both good times and bad. When owners have health problems during a vacation, staff members arrange for them to stay extra nights, and when natural disasters strike, The Owners Club at Barton Creek has housed owners unable to remain in their own homes. Owners receive birthday and anniversary cards, and flowers if they’re celebrating on-property. Many owners live in Texas year-round, in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, Houston or Austin. An emphasis on community makes all the difference at The Owners Club at The Homestead. When floods hit the area in 2016, an email appeal to owners raised more than $20,000 in less than 72 hours. Owners who sell their interest typically do so because they’ve decided to purchase a home nearby, a type of turnover that’s healthy for the club and enlarges the local consumer base. “Owners rave about their experiences and the relationships they have established, which keep them returning and bringing their guests, who have been the majority of the new owner base since 2004,” Williams says. Offering amenities that owners love, ensuring they have a say in resort decisions and providing access to extra benefits have led to an enviable business. It’s the exceptional service, however, that has transformed that business into a community, and guests into owners, ensuring success for the years to come. —JESSEN O’BRIEN
A warm welcome and thoughtful service is the standard at The Owners Club at The Homestead. The club typically scores an annual average of 9.68 out of 10 on its online exit surveys. Here’s what |its owners are saying: Karen, Tim, Lisa, Richard, Erica and Allison make a wonderful team. Our stays are perfect. I swear they must even control the weather. It’s always a wonderful day at The Homestead.
Above: Inside one of the Club Homes at The Owners Club at The Homestead. Opposite: Guests at The Owners Club at Barton Creek enjoy access to golf and the outdoor pools at Barton Creek Resort and Spa.
I received a phone call from Richard (concierge at The Owners Club at The Homestead) on our departure day. He called to ask if I had left a bracelet at our house. When I looked in my jewelry case, I had left it in our room! We are so fortunate to have honest maid service, and they should be recognized! Richard deserves a special shoutout—he saw my Facebook request to save some snow for us, and he bagged and froze some before it all melted. The entire clubhouse staff is the most welcoming, fun-loving group. They are the reason we purchased at The Homestead. These folks are always a delight— professional, fun, friendly and ready to help in any way. People should take customer-service lessons from them!
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Sweetening the offer The ability to own at a beloved destination may have been the attraction for many owners, but The Owners Club didn’t stop there. It also gave owners complimentary ClubCorp membership at the Bronze level, which they can upgrade to Signature Gold Unlimited membership for a small annual fee. This level includes golf and dining access at select clubs worldwide. Owners can also become members of The Registry Collection and exchange with other high-end resorts across the globe. “The Registry Collection goes with The Owners Club like cream and sugar go with coffee,” Williams says. “Those who try it normally want more.” For The Owners Club at Barton Creek, the relationship helps ensure that every vacation its owners take is extraordinary. “It gives owners a way to experience other [premier] vacation properties they would not otherwise be able to visit,” Monkerud says. The Owners Club gave owners greater control at their home resort by setting up HOAs for three of the four Owners Club properties, including Barton Creek and The Homestead. “The resort works closely with our HOA board as well as our propertymanagement team to make certain that the interests of the ownership and the resort are always a priority,” Monkerud says. Williams notes that The Homestead HOA’s annual meeting is well attended by owners, and that a representative from the resort is on hand to address questions and share updates. A natural extension
of Dedman’s owner-driven vision, the HOAs ensure owners are actively involved in their club’s success.
We offer the full spectrum
As your full spectrum solutions provider, we offer not only the textiles and amenities that enhance the guest experience, but also the maintenance and safety solutions to ensure your property offers a safe and secure environment for your guests.
Duracell® Procell® Alkaline Batteries 0026866 9V Battery 0026867 D Battery 0026868 C Battery 0026869 AAA Battery 0026870 AA Battery
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Think of us as your qualified partner for all your maintenance requirements.
All products and services are manufactured and/or provided solely by Guest Supply®, a Sysco® Company and not by RCI, its parent and/or affiliates. Neither RCI nor its parent or affiliates are responsible for the accuracy or completeness of any statements made in this advertisement, the content of this advertisement (including the text, representations and illustrations) or any material on Guest Supply®, a Sysco® Company website to which the advertisement provides a link or a reference. Please refer to the applicable brand specifications for your property prior to purchasing products.
Contact your local Guest Supply Territory Manager to learn more. GUEST SUPPLY®, A SYSCO® COMPANY • 800.772.7676 • GUESTSUPPLY.COM WYNDHAMHOTELGROUP@GUESTSUPPLY.COM
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resorts everywhere have put their trust in Ski and Sea for housewares, paired with the personal service that has become our hallmark. We provide any of the 200+ small items to be found in a well-appointed kitchen, bedroom and bath. And everything can be packed per unit for your convenience. Find out about our products and our legendary service. Go to skiandsea.com.
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TOASTER - 4 SLICE
Cuisinart, black chrome
For EV 4210
Req Qty in Unit
Qty in Unit
Item Description AMENITY TRAY
Pewter plated nickel
HAIR DRYER Andis, white
for stock is known
. Save on stockouts . Increase accountability . Recover losses when items go missing . Run monthly reports . Always be ready for internal audits
LOCATION 112 - 3 BD - 3 BA Std - Unit # 101 Inspected 09/15/2017 10:46am Toggle Done
APPLIANCES COFFEE MAKER (PARTS MISSING?) Cuisinart, Brew Central, stainless steel
. Reduce spending as the true need
Item Description TV REMOTE
ZERO OUT QUANTITIES
our inventory management partner,
To ďŹ nd out more, go to inventorysmart.com.
TOASTER - 4 SLICE Cuisinart, black chrome
AUDIO VISUAL TV REMOTE For EV 4210
Recent RCI® Affiliated Resorts*
RCI Points® program The Lodges at Indian Point Resort Branson, Missouri, USA Sandy Square Resort Ocean City, Maryland, USA
RCI Weeks® program Barretos Country Hotel & Acquapark Barretos, Brazil Barretos Country Thermas Suites Barretos, Brazil The Costa Nha Trang Residences Nha Trang City, Vietnam CPlaza Hotel Quito by Best Western Quito, Ecuador ESJ Azul Carolina, Puerto Rico
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ESJ Verde Carolina, Puerto Rico
Ipioca Beach Residence Maceió, Brazil
Royal Blue Hotel & Spa Paphos Paphos, Cyprus
Grand Las Nubes by Inmense San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Lagoa Eco Towers Caldas Novas, Brazil
SeaGarden Beach Resort Montego Bay, Jamaica
Hotel Boutique Eleven Palms Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Laguna Shores Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Terracotta Resort Dalat Dalat, Vietnam
Hotel Boutique Las Escaleras San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
La Morada San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Hotel Boutique RD68 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Life Promenade Flat & Mall Capão da Canoa, Brazil
Thermas Resort Walter World Poços de Caldas Poços de Caldas, Brazil
Hotel Boutique Xoxula Cholula, Mexico
Manhattan Beach Riviera Aquiraz, Brazil
Hotel Golden Park Poços de Caldas Poços de Caldas, Brazil
Moon Palace Jamaica Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Hotel LM Hotel Boutique Puerto Aventuras, Mexico Huizhou Wyndham Yingqian Centre Huizhou, China
Vilage Inn Poços de Caldas Poços de Caldas, Brazil York Beach Residence Club York Beach, Maine, USA
Palm Greens Club Ahmedabad, India
The Registry Collection® program
Ramada Resort Akbuk Aydin, Turkey
ESJ Noir Carolina, Puerto Rico
Reserva do Abiaí Asenza Resort Pitimbu, Brazil
*Due to space limitations and other considerations, this list might not include all resorts that have recently affiliated with RCI.
What’s Happening Conferences, seminars, expos, summits, workshops, exhibitions, forums, symposiums, conventions, events and meetings you should know about. JA N UA RY/ F E B R UA RY
MAY 6–10 ARDA (American Resort Development Association) World 2018 Annual Convention & Expo Las Vegas, Nevada, USA arda.org MAY 8–10 INDABA Durban, South Africa indaba-southafrica.co.za MAY 15–16 HOLA (Hotel Opportunities Latin America) Investment Conference Miami, Florida, USA holaconference.com
JANUARY 17–21 FITUR (International Tourism Trade Fair) Madrid, Spain ifema.es/fitur_06
MARCH 5–7 IHIF (International Hotel Investment Forum) Berlin, Germany berlinconference.com
APRIL 4–5 HICSA (Hotel Investment Conference South Asia) Mumbai, India hicsaconference.com
JANUARY 22–24 ALIS (The Americas Lodging Investment Summit) Los Angeles, California, USA alisconference.com
MARCH 7–11 ITB (Internationale Tourismus-Börse) Berlin Berlin, Germany itb-berlin.de/en
APRIL 15–17 ILTM (International Luxury Travel Market) Africa Cape Town, South Africa iltm.com/africa
JANUARY 30– FEBRUARY 1 Caribbean Travel Marketplace San Juan, Puerto Rico chtamarketplace.com
MARCH 13–16 MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l’Immobilier)— The World’s Property Market Cannes, France mipim.com
APRIL 17–19 Cityscape Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi, UAE cityscapeabudhabi.com
JANUARY 31– FEBRUARY 1 HICP (Hospitality Investment Conference Philippines) Manila, Philippines hicp.sphereconferences.com
MARCH 27–28 HICAP (Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific) Update Singapore hicapconference.com MARCH 28–29 AOCAP (Alternative Ownership Conference Hotels & Resorts— Asia Pacific) Singapore aocap.org
JUNE 3–5 NYU (New York University) International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference New York, New York, USA nyu.edu/hospitalityconference
APRIL 18–20 WTM (World Travel Market) Africa Cape Town, South Africa wtmafrica.com
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF HOTEL GOLDEN PARK POCOS DE CALDAS; ISTOCKPHOTO (2)
MAY 16–18 CHRIS (Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit) Miami, Florida, USA chrisconference.com
APRIL 19–20 IBTM Africa Cape Town, South Africa ibtmafrica.com APRIL 22–25 Arabian Travel Market Dubai, UAE arabiantravelmarket.com
RCI VENTURES 51
A FINAL THOUGHT
It’s not all business at RCI. In this series, RCI Ventures® magazine checks in with key team members to talk vacations, hobbies, heroes and more. This time we caught up with Robert Stolt, vice president of business development.
Tell us about your most recent vacation. What did you do? RS: Last March, I did a catamaran trip through Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This was my third catamaran trip, and my second with my sister and her husband. The greatest part is that you really don’t do a lot other than take in the beauty of the region, snorkel, dive, swim and totally relax. I highly recommend it. Saint Lucia is one of your favorite places. Describe a perfect day there. RS: A day spent seeing the soaring Gros Piton and Petit Piton peaks from the water. There is no better spot to take in their beauty than from the bay between them. My partner and I made our first trip down in 1998 and have returned no fewer than 15 times since. What place tops your must-see list? RS: Believe it or not, it’s Cuba. I love the Caribbean and have always been fascinated by Cuba and hope to go one day very soon. There are amazing artists down there, and I can’t wait to find them. Machu Picchu, in Peru, is also at the top of my list. Outside the office, you’re renovating a 1920s bungalow. Have you done a renovation before, and what have you learned from the experience? RS: Though this is my third renovation, it’s been 10-plus years. I have learned many things from this project, especially the severity of damage that termites can cause to a woodframed house in Florida that had been long unoccupied—it’s bad. Still, I’m very excited about bringing this little bungalow back to its original beauty, and I know it’s going to be amazing. Given your interest in architecture, renovation and construction, can you tell us what one of your favorite architectural cities is? RS: Prague is truly one of the most beautiful European cities I have ever
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visited. It has a Bohemian allure with castles and monasteries mixed with modern and contemporary architecture and sculpture. It’s stunning. What’s your best travel advice? RS: Pack light, especially in Europe. There’s nothing worse than schlepping heavy bags on and off a train. You mentioned that you enjoy sharing wine with friends and family. Do you have a favorite wine region you’ve visited or would like to? RS: Bordeaux, France, produces amazing wines, primarily reds. They also produce a smaller amount of white wines that are just as amazing. I would love to spend more time exploring this spectacular wine region. What fun things do you like to do with your friends and family? RS: I love to vacation with them— I thoroughly enjoy showing them my favorite places, and there is no better way to experience a new destination than with family and friends. I have been with my partner for 24-plus years, and we were legally married in May of 2014. We have created an amazing life together, and I feel truly fortunate to have him in my life. Aside from house projects, what’s your greatest passion or hobby when off duty? RS: I love me some “Robert time.” I like to zip around on my Vespa checking out the neighborhoods. I’m always scouting my next renovation project. What is one personal goal that you’d like to achieve in your lifetime? RS: Homelessness is a huge problem in many cities, including in Orlando, where I live. I sincerely want to be part of the solution on how to reduce or eliminate it. It’s a goal of mine to become more involved within my community.
PHOTO: COURTESY RCI
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